The hurricane, which has yet to officially made landfall, has already inundated North Carolina coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power, and forecasters say conditions will only worsen as the hulking storm slogs inland.
After that, Florence is forecast to move northwest and north and move across western SC on Sunday, Sept. 15, and across western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee on Monday, Sept. 16, the NHC said.
The path of Hurricane Florence sees it going over some of the poorest areas on the eastern seaboard.
"This storm will bring destruction", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said. "Today the threat becomes a reality". On Wednesday, officials said some of those shelters were at capacity, but in a statement early Thursday, county officials said they were "able to mobilize additional resources to accommodate the need for shelter space". Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.
Air Force General Terrence J O'Shaughnessy, head of US Command, said search and rescue is a top priority but that the magnitude of the storm may exceed the ability of rescuers. US President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed declarations of emergency for North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, freeing up federal resources for storm response. "We're still going to have a Category 4 storm surge".
More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate - but the window to do so in nearly over.
He said the magnitude of the storm may exceed the ability of the state-activated National Guard troops.
More than 80,000 people are already without power, and forecasters have warned that conditions will only get more lethal as the storm pushes ashore in the early hours of Friday morning.
"I have no generator", said Petra Langston, a nurse.
The National Weather Service forecasts minor to major flooding along rivers anywhere from the Carolinas to Maryland in the coming days.
Atlantic Beach was receiving winds of roughly 65-75 miles per hour as of 3:30 p.m. Thursday, according to a Fox News report.
Wilmington resident Julie Terrell said she was concerned after walking to breakfast past a row of shops fortified with boards, sandbags and hurricane shutters.
"On a scale of one to 10, I'm probably a seven in terms of worry, she said". "Because it's Mother Nature".
Forecasters' European climate model is predicting two trillion to 11 trillion gallons of rain will fall on North Carolina over the next week, according to meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com. That is enough water to fill the Empire State Building almost 40,000 times. Cooper and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster told more than 1 million people who were directed to leave that if they don't evacuate, no one will come to save them. "And the vast majority of the time they are OK", she said.
"We can show you what this could look like, if you were to find yourself in this scenario", meteorologist Erika Navarro says.
"Whether you have a house or not, when the storm comes it will bring everyone together".
An estimated 3 million people across the Carolinas could be without power before long, and the lights may be out for weeks in some areas, said the region's largest provider, Duke Energy.
"Since the track is slower and the storm will reside in the area for a longer period of time rainfall amounts are expected to be extreme", Reid Hawkins, science officer for the National Weather Service office in Wilmington, said in a statement.